Instagram Censored a Pedro Almodóvar Film Poster (and Then Apologized)

Pedro Almodóvar in 2017 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Instagram has issued an apology after censoring a promotional poster for Pedro Almodóvar’s new film, Madres Paralelas, which includes a close-up photograph of a lactating nipple. Several posts featuring the poster, the work of graphic designer Javier Jaén, were taken down by the platform on Monday and subsequently reinstated.

Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, said in a statement that the posts had been removed “for breaking our rules against nudity.” But the platform makes exceptions for works of art, including painting, sculpture, photography, and any other image that has “clear artistic context,” as well as photos of people “actively breastfeeding.”

“We’ve therefore restored posts sharing the Almodóvar movie poster to Instagram, and we’re really sorry for any confusion caused,” Facebook said.

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) called the reversal “either a promising shift for artists everywhere or a reinforcement of the inconsistency of the platform’s rules.”

“Instagram and its algorithms have long confused and dismayed artists whose work depicts the human body,” NCAC said in a statement. “Its algorithms frequently struggle to distinguish between photography and photorealistic painting.”

Artists and creatives have ceaselessly advocated for the company to adjust its policy on nudity, especially its draconian ban on images of female nipples, and #FreeTheNipple has become a clarion call for a growing movement against Instagram censorship.

Artist Micol Hebron designed the “Male Nipple Pasty,” a template image of a man’s nipple to help artists get past the censors — and a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the gendered and arbitrary nature of the platform’s policies.

In response to the recent controversy, Hebron edited the Madres Paralelas poster to include a male nipple and shared the image on her Instagram. “I fixed Javier Jaén’s poster for Almodovar’s film, so now it won’t get censored,” she says in the caption.

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